Adding a little thrill to everyday life – the appeal of roller coasters spans generations and is felt across the globe. The earliest roller coasters were developed in Russia, as early as the 16th century, and used gravity alone to send carts winding around a mountainside ramp. During the 19th century, roller coasters became hugely popular features of many cities in North America and Europe, with high-profile designers competing on an international scale. By the early 20th century, the technology had advanced to a reliable plateau and many of the results dating from the early 20th century still survive to this day. Here’s a look at ten of the most storied historic roller coasters still in use today.
Built in 1902, by the E. Joy Morris Company, Leap-The-Dips is North America’s oldest roller coaster and one of the last surviving side friction roller coasters in the world. Coasters built after the 1920s are designed with what are called ‘up-stop wheels’ that prevent the cars from becoming airborne. In the side friction model, the wheels of the carts run along a trough, with side plates that help keep them on the track — that and a brakeman who was on hand to slow it down if necessary. For that reason, its top speed a mere 10mph. Leap-The-Dips was closed in 1985, but reopened in 1999 by a fundraising campaign and it still remains a popular ride at the Lakemont Park in Altoona, Pennsylvania.
Leap-The-Dips, Lakemont Park, Altoona, PA United States +1 814 949-7275
The Giant Dipper opened in 1924, replacing an older roller coaster on the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. It’s been in operation since then, with a few embellishments added later on, like the Victorian architecture at the base which was added in 1974. The Giant Dipper is an iconic part of the Santa Cruz beach front and speeds along at 55mph. Trivia fact: The highly recognizable roller coaster has appeared in numerous television commercials and movies, including The Lost Boys and Dangerous Minds, and is called “The Big Dipper” in the song of the same name by Cracker in the 1996 album The Golden Age.